Virtual Programming: Virtual Round Tables

Virtual round tables are less formal and structured than a webinar, and don't have a formal presentation or expertise that is shared by a speaker. Their primary purpose is to give members a way to share ideas about a specific topic. A committee member or other member serves as facilitator, guiding the discussion and providing seed questions to the group as needed. Questions can be solicited from attendees in advance if desired, but the focus is open dialogue. Round tables are generally one hour in length and do not involve speakers with particular expertise or involve a lot of advanced prep work. Round tables can also involve panels that have pre-determined questions and a moderator.

Examples of round tables:

  • Discussions among niche groups when the audience will be relatively small and/or the topic is specific and focused. An example is an employer roundtable, or a directors roundtable to discuss a specific issue such as business school rankings.
  • When the topic lends itself to a more relaxed, unstructured atmosphere with lots of sharing among attendees. In these cases, the topic and audience can be more broad. An example might be how schools are structuring virtual orientations or the impact COVID has had on employee mental health.
  • When the topic is very timely and there isn't time to find a speaker with expertise or go through the webinar preparation process. An example might be something taking place in the industry that members are concerned about and need to discuss right away.
  • An informal panel with predetermined questions and ample time for audience discussion/Q&A. 
Vendor Policy
CSEA strives to maintain high quality, relevant, member-focused experiences at all events, working within resource and budget parameters and constraints. Our vendor policies help provide an equitable and meaningful experience for all participants, including schools, employers and vendors. View the Vendor Policies for details about the parameters for vendors to present a webinar or facilitate a virtual round table. Note: the vendor policy is housed within the Conference Policies, but they apply to any CSEA event.

Pre-Event Planning

  1. The committee determines the topic for the round table based on the organization’s strategic priorities, member feedback, current industry trends and Executive Director input. Unlike the webinars, virtual round tables are  developed as needed based on current market trends and member needs, and therefore they don't need to be advertised as far in advance. Ideally, round tables would be planned to give members two weeks' notice.
A committee member is selected to serve as primary lead/coordinator for the round table to manage logistics as follows:
  1. Work with the Executive Director to select the date based on other committee events and CSEA events. Round tables are scheduled on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to maximize attendance. The timing that works for most members based on time zones is 11 am EST, however round tables should be scheduled at times that are convenient to members in the APAC region as well.
  2. Create the round table title and description, and send it to the Executive Director and Committee Chair(s) for feedback and approval.
  3. Some committee members will serve as facilitator for the round table. If not, identify a facilitator with the help of the committee chair(s) and Executive Director. Facilitators don't need to have expertise about the topic, but they should have a strong interest in learning more about it. They should also have experience facilitating virtual sessions. Make sure the facilitators are okay with the session being recorded. If they aren't, let the Executive Director know ASAP so that information can be included in the communications with members.
  4. Enter all of the details into the session tracking sheet in Smartsheet and notify the Executive Director that it has been entered. The following details are needed:
    • Session title
    • Session description
    • Date
    • Time
    • Facilitator(s) names, titles and organizations
    • Facilitator(s) phone number and email
    • Contact information for additional presenters/facilitators (including panelists)
    • Interactive components that will be used (polls, breakout rooms, whiteboard, etc.)
    • Poll questions, if used
  5. CSEA staff will add the event to the web site and distribute the marketing materials to the membership.  Reference the main page of the SOPs for details about how events are marketed. Once the event registration is live on the web site, the facilitator and committee members should register for the event so you will receive the login details in the confirmation email. If presenters are not CSEA members, the committee lead can send them the login link. 
  6. CSEA staff will send a reminder with the login details to all registrants with the login details the day of, and just before the event. They will also send the login details, RSVP list and any last minute reminders to the facilitator and others presenters/panelists at that time.
  7. Prepare at least five questions about the topic to serve as seed questions if the attendees don't have a lot to say (or work with the facilitator to do so).
  8. The Executive Director will provide the attendance numbers the morning of the event (or it can be provided more in advance if requested). If more than 30 attendees are expected, breakout rooms are recommended (with 5 - 6 attendees per room). If these will be used, you can select additional facilitators (typically committee members) for each room and send them the questions in advance. Or, you can provide attendees with the questions and allow for free flow idea exchange without a formal facilitator.
  9. Slide decks and other presentation materials are not recommended for Round Tables because of the casual nature of the event. If materials will be used, send them to the Executive Director in advance of the event.

During the Event - The Role of the Facilitator

As a facilitator, you do not need to have any special technical expertise or familiarity with the software. The Executive Director or Executive Assistant will log in as host and handle all technical/administrative aspects of the event. This includes: recording the event, letting attendees in, muting callers as needed due to background noise, and setting up breakout rooms if needed. 
  1. Log in to the Round Table 15 minutes in advance (along with the Executive Director/Executive Assistant and any other presenters/panelists), using the login information that is in the confirmation email you received when you registered for the event (there is no separate login for facilitators or speakers).
  2. Introduce the topic at the beginning, and welcome people to the event (see sample script below).
  3. Ask questions to get the conversation started and keep it going. If needed, call on individuals to ask for their expertise or input. Keep an eye on the chat, as some people will ask questions and provide comments there (especially with larger groups). Make sure one or two people don't dominate the conversation. The Executive Director can assist with the chat monitoring if needed. You might also engage additional members of the committee to ask questions if there is a lull in conversation. 
  4. Facilitate a "LinkedIn Moment" during the session, where all attendees are given a few minutes to share a takeaway on LinkedIn using the hashtag: #CSEAProgram. This is most successful when done during a natural break in the middle of the session (if there is one).  
  5. Close out the event at the end, thanking the speaker(s) and making any necessary announcements (see sample script below)

Facilitation Tips

  • Ice breakers can be fun ways to introduce the group and set a positive tone for the round table, but they should be quick so they don't dominate the time. CSEA members like to share! :) With groups larger than 10 - 15, consider using the chat for introductions. Polls can also be used to kick off on a positive note. 
  • Try to engage everyone in the group as much as possible. This can be done by encouraging conversation in the chat, using breakout rooms for groups larger than 30, or asking questions like "Has everyone had a chance to contribute?"
  • Ask questions for people to respond to in the chat. This works well with groups larger than 20 when it will take a long time for everyone to respond using audio.
  • Use screen sharing when there are lengthy questions, but use it minimally because attendees typically like to see each other.
  • Use polls (let the Executive Director know the questions at least one day in advance).
  • Encourage attendees to use the virtual interaction tools, such as hand clapping, reactions or thumbs up.
  • Use the whiteboard option in Zoom, and allow people to add their own contributions through the annotate function. 
  • CSEA also has accounts with Kahoot and Mentimeter that can be used if planned in advance with the Executive Director.
  • If breakout groups are used, allow people to switch groups at least once so they can get to know more people.
  • Tell a personal story in the beginning that relates to the round table topic. 
  • If the group doesn't seem engaged, do a quick stretch break half way through.

Sample Scripts

Introduction Script

Good morning! This is [name] from  [insert university or organization] I am a member of the CSEA Virtual Programming Committee.  Welcome to all of our virtual round table participants. We're excited to get started today with a conversation about [topic].(feel free to add more details about why the topic was selected, if desired).

I have few technology pointers before we get started.
  • In order to avoid disruptions and background noise, we have muted all participants.
  • To ask a question or contribute to the discussion, please unmute your audio and/or use the chat function, which can be found on the bottom of your screen.
  • This meeting is being recorded, and it will be available in the Document Library after the event, which can be accessed through your login at:
Thank you for your participation and contributions to this discussion! We look forward to seeing you at future CSEA events. We have the following coming up: [check the event calendar and list all upcoming events in the next month]. (Ask the Executive Director in advance if there are any other CSEA-releated announcements that should be made at this time.)

Please feel free to reach out to our Executive Director if you have any feedback about this event or ideas for future topics.